One-third of global firms planning acquisitions: EY

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More than a third of companies are planning mergers or acquisitions within the next year, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) survey of senior executives across 70 countries, as confidence grows in the global economic recovery.

EY also found that almost three-quarters of the surveyed 1,600 executives expected both the number and size of deals to increase.

"M&A (mergers and acquisitions) sentiments are being buoyed by a much more positive view of deal fundamentals — there have been notable increases in the number and quality of acquisition opportunities, as well as a significant improvement in the likelihood of successfully closing deals," said Pip McCrostie, global vice chair of transaction advisory services at EY, one the U.K.'s "big four" professional services firms.

"All of this is underpinned by growing confidence in a global economy on a sounder footing — improving economic conditions in mature economies and more stabilization in the major emerging markets."

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According to EY, the top five destinations for prospective cross-border deals were China, India, Brazil, the United States and Canada. While the highest level of anticipated deal-making was in life sciences, energy, automotives and consumer products.

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"The emerging markets, both BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and non-BRIC, are of growing interest to dealmakers, and allow for portfolio diversification. Emerging markets are also expected to invest more in mature economies as well as other emerging markets prospectively, as they secure the necessary capital and seize the opportunity to drive growth through larger acquisitions," said McCrostie in the report.

EY also highlighted possible future top countries for deal making, which included the U.K. and Germany, alongside emerging markets like Mexico and Indonesia, and "frontier" markets like Myanmar.

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According to Dealogic data, global M&A volumes reached $2.1 trillion in the first nine months of this year, up 17 percent on the same period in 2012. However, the number of deals fell to 27,216, marking the second consecutive year-on-year decline during this period.

The largest deal this year-to-date was Verizon Communications' $130 billion acquisition of Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless in September.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato